U4 Issue | Development cooperation

Is mutual accountability feasible? A conceptual discussion with policy implications

By Hannes Hechler and Arne Tostensen
Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2012:11) 35 p

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Mutual accountability is one of five principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. Yet comparatively little has been written about this principle and how it is operationalised. It remains ill-defined and poorly understood by the stakeholders involved. A review of the existing literature and analysis of experiences of operationalising mutual accountability, primarily in Africa, point to ways of strengthening this principle. This includes engaging in dialogue with multiple stakeholders on the full range of relevant issues before a mutual accountability framework is put in place. Also, a thorough political economy analysis of the entire mutual accountability chain, with a risk assessment as an integral part, should be undertaken. Donors should encourage recipient countries to introduce performance contracts for senior civil servants with a view to monitoring performance over time and to providing incentives for behaviour in accordance with the standards of a rule-based and accountable public service. Donors on the other hand should chart exit strategies that provide recipient governments with clear indications as to how long and at what level of support they are likely to engage under normal circumstances so as to ensure predictability of aid flows. Finally, a strong anti-corruption lens should be included in mutual accountability concepts and practices.

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